This is a guest post by Loren Kantor, a woodcutter and writer who lives in Hollywood. He recently made a Chick Hearn woodcut – which can be ordered via his website – and wrote an accompanying piece on Chick to go with it.
It was 2002 and the Lakers had just beaten the New Jersey Nets for their third straight NBA Championship. Being a huge Lakers fan, I took a subway to downtown LA to check out the parade. As I watched the double-decker buses carrying the players down Figueroa Avenue, I noticed Chick Hearn standing at the front of the first bus. He was leaning against the top rail, his hair dyed purple, his shirt drenched with sweat and champagne. While Shaq and Kobe waved to the crowd, Chick stared straight ahead. This was his ninth championship as Lakers announcer and at age 85, he was exhausted.
Less than two months later, Chick suffered a fall at his Encino home that took his life. The world’s greatest basketball announcer was gone and Laker nation fell into mourning.
Francis Dayle “Chick” Hearn was born in 1916 in Aurora, Illinois. He played basketball at Bradley University and he earned his famous nickname from a prank played on him by teammates. He was given a box of sneakers and when he removed the lid he found a dead chicken inside.
Chick Hearn became the Lakers play-by-play man in 1961 after the team moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. His announcing style featured an enthusiastic, rapid-fire delivery peppered with colorful phrases and an offbeat sense of humor. Chick invented many of the terms that have become common basketball parlance. These include: Slam Dunk, Air Ball, Finger Roll, Give and Go, No Harm No Foul, Dribble Drive.
Chick also coined a number of phrases that became known as “Chickisms.”
“94 x 50 Hunk of Wood”–referred to a basketball court.
“Bunny Hop in the Pea Patch”–when a player was called for traveling.
“The Mustard’s off the Hot Dog”–when a player made a mistake while showing off.
“Yo-Yoing Up and Down”–dribbling the ball.
“Got caught with his Hand in the Cookie Jar”–a blatant foul by a player.
“Throws up a Brick”–a terrible shot.
“Heart-Brrreeak!”–a shot that goes in and out of the basket.
“Ticky-Tack”–a foul call when minimal contact is made.
“He couldn’t throw a Pea in the Ocean”–when a player’s shooting has gone cold.
“Put him in the Popcorn Machine and he’s covered with Butter”–When a defensive player leaps in the air from a head fake and the opposing player scores on him.
If a player tried an impossible shot that had no chance of going in, Chick would say:
“He has two chances, slim and none and slim just left the building.”
If that same impossible shot actually went in the basket, Chick had an alternative call:
“He throws up a prayer…and it’s answered.”
Whenever the Lakers had a lead that Chick deemed insurmountable, he would launch into his most famous phrase which guaranteed a Lakers victory.
“The game is in the refrigerator, the door is closed, the lights are out, the butter’s getting hard, the eggs are cooling and the Jello is jiggling.”